In India, where marriage is expected but AIDS is unspeakable, how do you find love when you’re HIV+?
Documentary filmmakers Ann S. Kim and East Bay native Priya Giri Desai profile one doctor’s unusual answer in their film “Lovesick,” screening Oct. 20 at San Jose State University’s Student Union Theater, and again Oct. 24 at the United Nations Associated Film Festival in San Francisco.
In 1986, Dr. Suniti Solomon discovered India’s first case of HIV, eventually founding YRG CARE, the country’s premier HIV/AIDS clinic. Decades later, Solomon saw those patients – now living longer – simultaneously face both ostracism and intense cultural pressure to marry. At the age of 72, Solomon decided to take on a new role— as a marriage matchmaker using not just income and education to create connections, but white blood cell counts and viral loads as well. It was a story Kim and Desai couldn’t resist.
“I was immediately intrigued, because for me, as an Indian American growing up here, the lore about marriage and our culture is so great,” said Desai, who grew up in Livermore and now lives in Boston. “To add this kind of modern twist to it – how do people with a stigmatizing illness deal with something as real as HIV – presents so many intersections and challenges.”
The filmmakers spent more than six years on the project, which follows the lives of two patients as they work with Solomon to find life partners in a world where even making their conditions known is nearly unthinkable.
“If people are accepted and are able to live their lives, they thrive,” Desai said. “Getting that message out to the right people, whether it’s the Indian community, the medical community, the NGO community, that’s our goal. It’s an effort to chip away at the stigma surrounding HIV. It’s set in India, but really, it’s a pretty universal story.”
“Lovesick” by documentary filmmakers Priya Giri Desai and Ann S. Kim will have two Bay Area screenings.
Oct. 20: 2 p.m. at San Jose State University’s Student Union Theater. Ticket information at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/india-currents-presents-lovesick-film-screening-and-qa-with-directors-tickets-50250821560. Co-sponsored by India Currents.
Oct. 24: 8:05 p.m. at the United Nations Association Film Festival, Ninth St. Independent Film Center, 145 Ninth St. Ticket information at http://www.unaff.org/2018/mission.html.